My ALCAN AAR
I'm another newbie now residing in Delta Junction, coming from Florida. Made the trip of 6000 miles in 10 days. I sent this after action review to some friends and thought there might be some useful info for others lurking here and pondering the trip. I've edited out the boring lower 48 part and deleted names to protect the guilty. So, this starts with some vehicle maintenance in Arlington, Washington.
In the morning (Friday, 16 April) my friend helped me out with getting a quick oil change (I was going to try a place that I had a nationwide coupon for but the staff told me I'd have to make an appointment for the afternoon) and then to another place to have the tires rotated. Upon inspection there it was determined that my front brakes were shot, which I have no doubt of since I'd just turned over 50k in miles with the original brakes and had been riding them hard through the mountains during the last week. So, after having lunch with my friends again while they put new brakes we were once again ready to go at about two in the afternoon. Following my friend's advice we got off I-5 at 542 and followed that to 9 and crossed the border into Canada at Sumas. This let us bypass the I-5 border crossing and the Vancouver traffic. We had to go inside to submit paperwork for the firearms I was carrying but by carefully following the directions on the RCMP website I had the forms prepared in triplicate, brought only guns in the unrestricted category and had no problems. They did pay special attention to my wife's green card and passport and did a background check on me but after not too long a wait we were on our way and they never even wanted to physically see the guns. Considering how tightly packed the truck was that was a good thing. From the border the road was designated 11 and we followed that to Highway 1 and headed east. We arrived in Hope, BC (my friend told me later this is the town used in the movie First Blood) and followed Highway 1 north. This proved to be the scariest and most grueling piece of road on the entire trip. It's a canyon road, one lane each way, and I was so very glad to have fresh brakes on the truck. The signs that said watch for falling rock were in real time, as I had to dodge several rocks rolling off the cliffs as well as fresh falls already across the road. All this while dodging tractor trailers swinging into our lane, and some really tight turns. There's not much of anything on this route, especially gas stations, and I was starting to watch the gauge by the time we rolled into Cache Creek as the sun set. We stayed at the Sandman Hotel and the adjoining restaurant was one of the delights of the trip. It was run by a Greek and I had a roast lamb plate that would be a premiere dish on the sponge docks of Tarpon Springs.
In the morning we ate breakfast in the restaurant again, myself getting the lumberjack plate, and as I was checking out I asked the lady at the desk if the road north to Prince George was like the road from Hope. She at first thought that I had taken Highway 5 through Kamloomps and was really surprised that I had taken 1. "Oh, you came up through the canyon? Oh, yah, that's a bit a road there, eh." So after stopping at the local market and getting accosted by the local tourist scammer bum for two American dollars (it was the fastest way to get rid of him) we were motoring north again to Prince George on Highway 97. The road was much better that before and we did well. We saw our first bald eagle and I saw my first grizzly bear. There it was in the ditch as we zoomed by. My first thought was that had to be the biggest, furriest Chow Chow I've ever seen and why was its tail missing? Ah, that was a grizzly bear! Probably a young one. The day was over as we were getting to Chetwynd and deciding on a hotel we pushed east to Dawson Creek to the Ramada Limited there. The shorter option was to go to Fort Saint John but there didn't appear to any big motels there according to the Garmin. So we ate at Boston Pizza while every Canuk stared raptly at the hockey on TV and bedded down again.
In the morning (Sunday, 18 April) we set off on the Alcan. Interestingly enough, Dawson Creek is the beginning of the Alaska Highway and the Ramada is located at Mile 0. So, with 1422 miles left to get to Delta Junction we sallied forth. The Alcan at this point was not bad at all. Uneven at stages from repairs and recent potholes were only patched with oiled gravel (I thought this could be especially dangerous to motorcycles) but overall not bad. Gas stations were not too far apart, even for a thirsty V8 but you have to be sure to gas up before 8 PM or so, everything shuts down. Other impressions; rest stops are few and rather Spartan. It's one of those type of places that proves life is easier being a man. While the road isn't bad the speed limits are actually advisable. If the sign says slow down to 80 kph it is best to do so. I don't think it occurred to them to put any banks into the turns. I was using my GPS as a turn navigator by this time, especially since there's nothing else on it but that one squiggly line. Also, at least half of the turns on the Alcan also include an elevation change. So every time one is negotiating a turn they're also either going up or down a hill. The first creature I saw that morning was a gray wolf. It was running through a wheat field and I thought to myself "that's the biggest coyote I've ever seen." When we stopped at a rest area one of the informative placards showed me what I'd seen was actually a common local wolf. Later that day we saw elk, caribou, moose, black bear and tons of bison. One of the first moose we met was down on its front knees in the middle of the Alcan licking the center line. I can only guess that it was going after salt residue. Around the Yukon border the sides of the roads we packed with bison in places and wherever they weren't the ground was covered with evidence that they'd been by recently, in large numbers. We were forced to stop several times to let bison or moose get off the road. We stopped to watch a black bear forage on the side of the road for a short bit before continuing into Watson Lake, the first stop in the Yukon. We stayed at a place called the Air Force Lodge. It was a rebuilt old RCAF pilot's barracks, small rooms, communal restrooms, but quiet. Run by a German emigrant. When we passed the other motel in the center of town it appears that guests had dragged chairs from their rooms to socialize and drink on the sidewalk outside. We had observed this same behavior in Cache Creek and did not wish to take part. There were no restaurants open so it was noodles in the microwave in the center hall of the lodge.
On Monday, the 19th, we started the almost last leg of the journey. The road continued to be not perfect but not horrible. In Teslin we stopped for fuel, the tourist place just over the bridge has great tomato soup and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. We made it into Whitehorse and here I fueled up again and fueled up a spare can. After this the road got rough but the tough part was yet to come. Coming into Destruction Bay the lake causeway was gravel and the wind was fierce. The radio said it was up to 70 knots. We stopped for gas again in Destruction Bay and the clerk told me those winds were constant, hence the town's name. He also advised me that the road to Alaska from there on was terrible, with lots of fresh frost heaves. He understated it. At times I was down to 20 mph to keep the roller coaster ride to a minimum. Even then I was passing vehicles hauling trailers. You could see where people had taken the frost heaves too fast and dug their trailer tongues into the multiple patched asphalt. This continued almost to the border, where it was then back to gravel for a bit. Then the border crossing. This tool at the border has my US passport and my wife's green card in his hand and wants to know our business in Alaska. Hello, American residents, we'd like to go home. Right after the border the road was back to gravel for what appeared to be pretty extensive repairs on the roadway. Just because you're back in the US doesn't mean there's anything there. We drove on and on until the sun was setting as we pulled into Tok (pronounced toak) for fuel. I tried calling my contact at Greely but got voicemail. Figuring that it was already 8:30 at night they wouldn't have quarters for us we bedded down at the Snowshoe Motel and went to Fast Eddie's for dinner. This was a treat, a full salad bar and a good steak and halibut fillet. We learned later that people come from over 100 miles around just to eat there. I finally heard from my sponsor at Greely that we'd see him tomorrow and settled in for bed.
On the 20th we drove the final hundred miles to Delta Junction, took a picture at the end of the Alcan tourist spot and then drove five miles south on the Richardson Highway to Ft. Greely.
Other notes; cell service was non-existent from Dawson Creek to Tok and my cell works everywhere in the world. I could make a call in Siorapaluk, Greenland but it wouldn't get a signal in Canada. ATM's wouldn't work with American debit cards.
I just came on to post similar. I left Alabama (just south of Birmingham) a week before you (9th April) to head for Kodiak. On my own in the big 26ft U-haul with a car-hauler on the back. It took me 6 days for the 4508 miles to Homer. II set my car (Nissan Xterra) as my sleeping quarters, so I wasn't bound by hotels etc and had emergency food/water for 3 days in case I got stuck. Weather was very kind to me, but driving that truck and trailer around Destruction Bay etc was somewhat exciting. You are right about that last 200miles to the border - you think the road is rough and then a sign 'bumpy road' appears "how much bumpier can it get?" - A LOT!!!
U-Haul was also kind to me - new truck, no breakdowns, flats or any issues at all.
It was certainly an experience, but I would rather do it in a nice 4x4 next time and not a 50ft truck and trailer combo!
But am I glad to be in Kodiak, what an awesome place.